Duchenne muscular dystrophy - Muscular Dystrophy Queensland

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)

DMD (Duchenne muscular dystrophy) is the most common form of muscular dystrophy.

Parents tend to notice signs of muscle problems including delayed motor development, and difficulty keeping up with other children in the playground. Children with DMD may have a waddling gait or walk on their toes, and they develop a distinct way of getting up from the ground (Gower’s manoeuvre).

It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 5 in boys. More rarely, this disease affects girls. Sometimes earlier if there is a known family history.

It is not uncommon for there to be more than one sibling affected. In recent years there has been advances in genetic testing for carriers and family planning.

Becker Muscular Dystrophy Diagram


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is characterised by progressive degeneration of muscles and weakness due to changes in the gene which affects the production of a protein vital for muscle structure, dystrophin. This muscle weakness and degeneration causes a range of issues that develop over time, including:

  • Difficulty moving including walking, running, walking up stairs. 
  • As the condition develops, a manual wheelchair and small motorised scooter are recommended to manage fatigue over distances while still allowing the child to participate in everyday activities. Eventually a powerchair (electric wheelchair) is required for mobility throughout the day, and assistance is needed with everyday tasks such as getting in and out of bed, showering, dressing and eating.     
  • Muscle fatigue and cramps
  • Muscle and joint contractures (tightened muscles). As the muscle breaks down it is replaced with scar tissue which is not as ‘ stretchy’ as muscle. This is also the reason why the muscle, particularly the calf, can look large.
  • Posture is affected due to the weakness of muscles that keep backs straight which can lead to lordosis (curvature in the lower back) or scoliosis (where their spine twists sideways, sometimes with rotation).  
  • The diaphragm and other muscles that move air in and out of the lungs can be weakened which can affect respiratory function and the effectiveness of coughing. This can result in increased risk of serious respiratory infections like pneumonia. Ventilation devices can assist people to maintain healthy breathing and respiratory functions. 

The muscle layers of the heart can weaken due to a lack of dystrophin which can result in a condition called cardiomyopathy

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Medical Alert Cards

Medical Alert Cards

Muscular Dystrophy Queensland has created condition-specific alert cards for the most diagnosed muscle-wasting conditions.

These cards mean that people living with muscle wasting conditions and their families will have the security of knowing they can easily inform emergency health care professionals of the vital and specific issues that affect children and adults with these conditions.

Order our Medical Alert Card for Duchenne muscular dystrophy today

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At Muscular Dystrophy Queensland we don’t see you as just a client. You are a valued member of our community. We’re here to support you through every stage of life. We’d like to keep in touch with you, to understand your needs as they evolve and provide you with ongoing access to our range of services. And so, we ask you to register with us. 

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